Illustrate Me for September

September’s Illustrate Me comes from an unexpected source: Alissa Walker, design author extraordinaire and one-half of the tireless design reporting staff at Mediabistro’s Unbeige blog. It’s a gorgeously raw, hand-written illustration that really caught me off guard. You can see it for yourself now on September’s archive page.

Writers Draw the Darndest Things

Below: Chalk it up to writing. Alissa Walker’s Illustrate Me for September is a great visual idea writ large.

I’ll be honest: I’ve always known Alissa as a terrific writer, first and foremost. I knew she had a background in art direction, but I’ve always thought of her as more of an author than a visual designer. When she asked if she could create September’s Illustrate Me illustration (“’Cause my birthday’s in September,” she said, so wish her a belated birthday), I figured she’d be likelier to come up with a really clever idea than she’d come up with a visual tour de force.


So I didn’t expect her to turn in as disarmingly great an illustration as this — it’s as uninhibited and engaging a piece as any that have been done for Illustrate Me so far; in fact, it’s got more visual wallop than some of its predecessors that were created by actual, money-earning visual designers, and it also happens to be one of the graphically strongest pieces yet. I dig it.

Questions for Alissa Walker


Where did you get the idea for this Illustrate Me?


I just got back from Spain where everything good about the world is crammed onto the tiny blackboards behind tapas bars. They’re these little temporary masterpieces — loaded up with information, then wiped clean every night. I wanted to create a menu of the freshest posts, like the specials of the day. I’m suddenly very hungry.


What I like about this piece is that it’s so unexpected, even more hand-drawn than any of the others, and it’s so informal. Is this the kind of design that you gravitate towards as design writer?


It depends. I’m a big crafter so I definitely admire anything created by hand. But I’m most fascinated by designers who have this beautiful stuff coming out of their computer and then say, “Oh, by the way, I can’t draw a thing.” Really? That’s impressive. I actually wanted to be an art director until I started learning the computer programs. I can thank QuarkXPress 3.3 for launching my writing career.


How much bearing do you think drawing skills have on a person’s ability to design? How much should they have?


I hate to answer anything that will make me sound like any kind of authority on design, which I’m certainly not. But I would think drawing is simply a way for you to better understand what you’re designing, and in that case, I’d also highly advocate writing. It doesn’t even have to be about your work:аjust get it down, and get it out there. It will change the way you absorb the world, and I can’t think of anything better for a designer than that. Except maybe eating tapas in Spain.

  1. The bit about whether or not designers can draw or that drawing helps.. OK, basically all of Alissa’s second response got me thinking. How many designers would we not have if not for the ability for a completely uncoordinated person to create something pretty with a computer?

    The self-perpetuating myth of “I can’t draw a thing”, is interesting too. So many people that say that are limiting themselves to what they think drawing is. A friend of mine would say she can’t draw either but at the same time she’ll be doing intricate, unconcious doodles all in the margins. The difference, at times, between an ‘artist’ and a ‘doodler’ is often the ability for that person to recognize what they’ve done as art.

    I suppose I should actually say something on topic now.

    Ёeverything good about the world is crammed onto the tiny blackboardsЁ

    That has to be one of the most adorable things I’ve ever read. Don’t let that sound condescending in your head. It’s also rather hopeful. And, considering it is the fashion by which Alissa chose to illustrate everything you said in a month, Khoi, it is quite a compliment I should think.

  2. it’s gorgeous. can i see the whole thing? can i use it as my desktop wallpaper? please? there is something incredibly refreshing about analog handwriting for over digitalized people like ourselves. ironic.

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